[imagefield_assist|fid=8799|preset=fullsize|title=GM Ben Finegold helped Tony Rich brush up on some of the finer points of his game.|desc=|link=none|origsize=|align=left|width=375|height=250]By Tony Rich
When I first heard of the Expert Factory, it sounded like a great opportunity to play against opponents who were around my strength and have a grandmaster analyze my games. When I woke up Sunday morning, it felt more like an opportunity to lose three games against my peers and be chastised for my bad play. Luckily neither were true, and the experience made this one of my favorite tournaments ever.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Expert Factory, it is a tournament in which up to 10 Class A players (people rated between 1800 and 2000) can square off in a USCF-rated, three-round Swiss tournament. Between the rounds, all games are analyzed by GM Ben Finegold.
The idea is that strong players will get stronger and advance toward achieving an expert rating (2000-2200). With this goal of rapid improvement, players get not only the grandmaster analysis sessions, but also receive their games annotated by GM Finegold. The overall winner also receives a free one-hour private lesson with GM Finegold.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis hosted this second Expert Factory Invitational on December 5, and we had players travel from far and wide to participate. The six competitors were Selden Trimble (1951) from Rolla, Jeffrey Kovalic (1943) from Tennessee, Tony Rich (1934) from Saint Louis, Craig Hines (1784) from Indiana, Senad Smajlagic (1700) from Saint Louis and Bill Thompson (1658) from Saint Louis.
In the first round I was paired against Selden Trimble. For those of you who don’t know Selden, he is a mainstay in Missouri Chess, having served on the board of the Missouri Chess Association and is a consummate gentleman. Also, being the highest-rated player in the field, I knew he would likely be my toughest competition. I hadn’t played a tournament game in months, and I knew I had to play well against Selden.
(82) Rich,Tony (1934) - Trimble,Selden (1967) [B07]
Expert Factory #2 (1), 05.12.2010
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5 Bg7 5.Qe2?! this is a line I learned in high school, but it isn't very good. Black achieves quick development while my bishop on f1 is out of play for most of the game 5...c6 6.0-0-0 Qa5 7.e5 [7.f4 scores well in practice] 7...Nd5
8.Nxd5 [8.exd6 I spent a lot of time (35 minutes) thinking about this move, but couldn't figure out what was happening after 8...0-0 9.dxe7 Nxc3 10.exf8Q+ Bxf8 11.bxc3 Qxc3 (11...Ba3+ 12.Kd2 Qxg5+ 13.Qe3 should be winning for white) 12.Qe8 Na6 with the idea of Nb4. My computer says it is better for white (0.91), but consider that white is up a whole rook and you can see how much play black gets!] 8...Qxd5 9.Nf3 [9.Kb1 dxe5 10.dxe5 Qxe5 11.Qxe5 Bxe5 12.Nf3 Bg7 and white's development should compensate for the pawn] 9...Bg4 [9...Qxa2 is the critical line, but after 10.exd6 Be6 11.dxe7 Qa1+ 12.Kd2 Qxb2 I'm not sure who's king is weaker] 10.exd6 Qxg5+ 11.Nxg5 Bxe2 12.Bxe2 Bh6 13.f4 exd6 14.g3 a weak move [14.Rhe1 is much better] 14...Nd7 15.Ne4 Ke7 16.Rhe1 another weak move [16.d5! immediately gives white a good game] 16...f5 [16...d5 is dead even] 17.Nd2 Rhe8
18.Bf3+? right piece, wrong square [in time trouble I missed 18.Ba6+ winning everything] 18...Kf6 19.d5! finally hitting the nail on the head 19...c5 20.Nc4 Bf8 21.Re6+ Rxe6 22.dxe6 Kxe6 23.Re1+ [23.Bd5+ Kf6 24.Bxb7 Rb8 25.Bc6 wins the d6 pawn] 23...Kf6 24.Bxb7 Rd8 25.Re3 threatening to attack the weak a7 pawn 25...Rb8 26.Bd5 Nb6 27.Nxb6 axb6 28.a4!
This my best move of the game. I fix black's pawns on dark squares, which makes his bishop terrible. notice that black can never free himself with b5 due to a5, and there is no way to stop the pawn.28...Be7 [28...Rd8 29.Rb3 Rb8 30.a5 is also winning] 29.Re6+ Kf7 30.Rxd6+ Kf8 31.Rd7? completely misunderstanding the endgame [31.Rc6 prevents black from trading rooks and still keeps pressure on b6] 31...Rd8 32.Rxd8+ Bxd8 this may still be winning, but it is very difficult. Bishops-of-opposite-color endgames are notoriously hard to win. 33.Kd2 h6 34.c3 [34.Kd3] 34...Ke7 35.Kd3 g5 36.fxg5? another weak move. When in an endgame like this, the side with the advantage should try to keep as many pawns on the board as possible. 36...hxg5 37.b4 [37.Kc4 was the last try] 37...Kd6 38.Kc4 cxb4 39.cxb4 Bc7 40.h4 gxh4 41.gxh4 f4 42.h5 Ke7 43.Kb5 Kf6 44.a5 [44.Kc6 Bd8 45.Kd7 Be7 46.a5 bxa5 47.bxa5 Bb4 48.a6 Bc5 is a draw too] 44...bxa5 45.bxa5 Bxa5 even though white will be up a piece, there is no way to protect the queening square 1/2-1/2
I was a little disappointed to only draw the game, but was happy to have not lost. My second round opponent was Bill Thompson, who beat me in our only other tournament game. Luck was on my side this time around as I defeated him with black.
(83) Thompson,Bill (1659) - Rich,Tony (1934) [C36]
Expert Factory #2 (2), 05.12.2010
Before the game, Bill and I talked about opening choices and I asked what he plays against the Sicilian. He told me of his usual Yugoslav Attack, but said he was leaning toward a Closed Sicilian. 1.e4 e5 And at the last moment I abandoned my Sicilian all together! 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 I knew Bill plays the Kings Gambit and I recalled the game between GMs Shulman and Onischuk from the Thanksgiving Open in which black equalized easily. 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bb5+ Nbd7 5... c6 and 5... Bd7 are both more common here. [5...c6 6.dxc6 Nxc6 7.d4 Bd6 is roughly equal, but there is still lots of play in the position.] 6.Nc3 Bd6 7.Qe2+ Qe7 8.Qxe7+ Kxe7
[I avoided 8...Bxe7 because it is too slow. While it may be scary to have your king in the center so early, it was objectively the better decision.] 9.d4 [9.0-0 Rd8 and black "castles by hand" after Re1+ Kf8.] 9...Nb6 10.0-0 Rd8 11.Ne5 Nbxd5 12.Nxd5+ Nxd5 13.Bxf4 [13.Nc6+ bxc6 14.Bxc6 doesn't work because of 14...Nb4 15.Bxa8 Nxc2 16.Rb1 Ba6 regaining the exchange due to the hanging bishop on a8 17.Be4 (17.Rf2? Rxa8 18.Rxc2 Bd3-+) 17...Bxf1 18.Bxc2 Ba6-/+] 13...Nxf4 14.Rxf4 f6 15.Rh4? [15.Ng6+ hxg6 16.Re1+ and black must give back the piece 16...Be6 (16...Kf8? 17.Rh4 Be6 18.Rxe6 g5 is better for white) 17.Rfe4 Kf7 18.Rxe6 and the computer found 18...Be5! 19.Bc4 Rxd4 20.R6xe5+ Rxc4 and black should be able to untangle, but the win is far from clear] 15...fxe5 16.Rxh7 exd4? not a blunder per se, but it gives white a lot of open lines to attack my king [16...Bf5 17.Rxg7+ Kf6 and white can resign] 17.Re1+ Kf6 18.Rf1+ Ke5 19.Bc4
[19.Rxg7 gives me time to unwind 19...Rf8 20.Re1+ Kf6-+] 19...g5 [19...Rf8 is still the right plan 20.Re1+ Kf6 21.Rf1+ Bf5 22.Bd3 (22.g4 Kg6) 22...Ke6 23.Bc4+ Kd7 24.Bb5+ Kd8-+] 20.Rhf7 [20.Re1+ Kf6 21.Rf1+ Bf4 is what I intended, but I'm not convinced black is much better any longer] 20...Bb4! covering the checks on both e1 and e7 21.c3 dxc3 22.Re1+ Kd4 23.Rd1+ [23.bxc3+ Kxc3 24.Bb3 Bd6 is no better] 23...Kxc4 24.Rxd8 cxb2 25.Rxc7+ Bc5+ and white resigned 0-1
Feeling a little more optimistic after this victory, I was looking forward to my third round game against Jeffrey Kovalic. While I’ve never played him before, I knew he could be a dangerous opponent and only a victory would give me first place.
(84) Kovalic,Jeffrey (1943) - Rich,Tony (1934) [B35]
Expert Factory #2 (3), 05.12.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Be3 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 a5 9.0-0 a4 10.Nxa4 Nxe4 11.Nxc6 All theory so far, but this was a new move to me. 11...bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bb6 Qf6 14.Nc5 [14.f3 seems better 14...Ng5 and the g5 knight is awkwardly placed] 14...Nxc5 15.Bxc5 Re8 16.Bd6 e4 17.c3?
it's hard to believe, but this is the losing move! The pawn no longer controls d3, so my light-squared bishop can enter the game powerfully17...Ba6 18.Re1 Bd3 19.Bc5 Qf5 20.Be3 c5 The Accelerated Dragon is an opening where black gets some funny looking pieces usually, but has the latent potential of the big center 21.Qd2 c4 22.Bc2 Reb8 23.b4? another mistake, making my bishop on g7 a beast [23.Bb1 as unpleasant as this position is, white is trying everything to hold his position together] 23...Ra3 24.Bd4 Bxd4 25.cxd4 Qd5 26.Bxd3 exd3 the advantage of those central pawns, unopposed, has resulted in connected passed pawns well on their way to queening 27.Qf4 d6 28.Re3 and now I play some "human" moves, systematically eliminating white's counteryplay 28...Raa8 [28...Rxb4 is objectively best] 29.Rh3 f5 allowing the queen or either rook to cover h7 and g7 if necessary 30.Re3 Re8 31.Rae1 Rxe3 32.Qxe3 Qe4 making more progress forward 33.Qd2 [33.Qxe4 fxe4 34.Rxe4 d2 and white can't stop the pawn] 33...Rxa2!
This is my favorite move of the game. White loses quickly by capturing either piece34.Qc3 Rc2 35.Qa1 d2 36.Rd1 c3 [36...Ra2 wins immediately 37.Qc3 (37.Qxa2 Qe1+ 38.Rxe1 dxe1Q#; 37.Qb1 Qxb1 38.Rxb1 c3) 37...Qe2] 37.f3 Qxd4+ [37...Qe3+ 38.Kf1 Rc1 is also quicker] 38.Kf1 Qc4+ 39.Kf2 Ra2 40.Qb1 c2 41.Qxa2 Qxa2 42.Rxd2 Qa7+ 0-1
When the dust had settled, I was in clear first with 2.5 points out of three games. Not surprising to some, this was my first-ever tournament victory and it felt great to not only win, but also to share such an educational and enjoyable day with some great chess folks. I would like to thank Ben and all the other participants for really bringing their A-game and creating such a great event.